CandyBar 2.6.1, by Panic
Posted: 8-Oct-2006

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Panic Type: SHAREWARE

Reviewer: Mel Krewall Class: UTILITY
$12.95   Download

Back in the days of OS 8/9 there was Kaleidoscope, and it was good. You could make your system appearance look like just about anything, from space aliens to roses to a 50s diner (my favorite). All of this came at a price, however. Some of the themes were buggy could make the OS unstable. Others were just so garish that they made your head hurt.

Fast-forward to Mac OS X. There are a couple of theme-changing utilities, but most require the APE Manager which some people do not like to install on their system. One theme utility that does not require APE Manage is CandyBar from Panic Software. Panic is a Mac-only developer that really "gets it". All of their applications just look like they belong on Mac OS X and nowhere else. Transmit is their popular FTP client and Unison is an excellent newsgroup reader. These products have a great user interface, great functionality, great value, and even include a sense of humor. Having used these applications before, I was looking forward to sampling CandyBar.

CandyBar is a small application that changes the icons your system uses. The product web page claims that it "lets you change the Mac OS X icons you usually can't". All of the icons you see daily, like the mounted disk volumes and network, home and trash, and others that aren't as commonly seen, like text clippings, drop box and private folders can be changed by CandyBar. Using icon collections called iContainers, you can customize the look of your Mac quickly and without any stability problems.

Panic's page states Mac OS X 10.3.9 "and a love of change".

Like all of Panic's applications, CandyBar uses a simple drag-and-drop installation. You download the disk image from their website, and after mounting the disk image, drag the program to the Applications folder on your hard drive. The CandyBar disk image includes two starter icon sets, Litho and Monolith in iContainers (with a little Tupperware icon). You can get more at
The Icon Factory.

In Use
CandyBar presents a clean user interface reminiscent of Mail and System Preferences prior to Apple's adoption of the unified title and toolbar of Tiger.

Candybar Interface

In CandyBar, iContainers are icon sets containing all the system icons in a single file. The Icon Factory has many, many icon sets in iContainers, all for free, that make it easy and convenient to use with CandyBar. You can start CandyBar and open all the icons in it simply by double-clicking the iContainer.

There are really only four options to the program, and they are all right in front of you on the toolbar: System, Applications, Volumes and App Extras. The one I used most was the System option, which changes all the common Mac OS X system icons. For instance, I used the Monolith set to change my system icons to get the results displayed below.

My Customized System Icons

Changes to the System icons require an Admin password and a restart of both the Finder and the Dock, which CandyBar will prompt you for. Curiously, although all the other built-in systems icons got changed, the URL alias on my desktop for the Netlock VPN client did not change (the URL icon for a website placed right below it did change). Occasionally an icon will not be updated after the Dock and Finder restart, but a logout/login cycle appears to fix that.

If you have modified the base icon set from the iContainer, you may save your modifications as a separate iContainer for later use or to share with other users. My saved set worked as advertised. To revert to basic system icons, just click the Restore Icons button and after a Finder and Dock restart, you are back to original Tiger (or Panther) icons.

The next option for change is Applications. When the Application button is clicked, CandyBar searches your hard drive and looks for all the applications you have installed. The icons of those applications are displayed by CandyBar in what Panic terms "wells" (the recessed squares with drop shadows that contain the icons that were found). By dragging any icon into one of the Application wells you can change the icon of the application in the well. The icon dragged can be from a folder, another application or any other icon type. After replacing the icon, click the "Apply Application Icons" button and CandyBar will make the changes for you. As mentioned with the System icons, you must supply an Admin password to make the changes. CandyBar also offers to restart the dock so that applications that have a permanent place there will have their new look.

Application Icons Toolbar

The next tool is Volumes which works much the same as Applications. Click on the Volumes icon in the toolbar and CandyBar will show all your mounted disks in wells. Drag an icon into the well that represents a disk (it doesn't list network volumes). To activate the icon change, click the "Apply Volume Icons" button. As in the other tools, you'll be prompted for an Admin password, and an option to restart the Finder. The new Volume (disk) icons won't show up until you either restart the Finder, log out and log back in, or restart the computer.

Volume Icons Toolbar

Finally we have "App Extras". Mac OS X applications are actually folders - or "bundles" in Mac OS X terminology - and have many icons hidden inside them. After selecting App Extras in the toolbar, you are presented with two panes, one to drag an application into the "drop zone" and another that will be filled with icons from the application. When you drag an application into the drop zone, CandyBar will examine the bundle and extract all the icons into wells for your perusal. This is of limited utility, however, because you cannot save them as a set, nor drag them out to use anywhere else. You can drag another icon into a well to change any of the application icons. For instance, if you preferred the icon from an earlier version of Photoshop Elements to the current one, you can use this tool to change it. I found this particular tool of limited usefulness, but it does complete the tool set for CandyBar, allowing you to change any of your computer's icons.

App Extras Toolbar

I could also never find a way of moving an icon from one well onto another. If you drag a custom icon out of its well, it "poofs" (like removing something from the Dock), and you end up with a generic one. I could not find a way to copy an icon to paste it into another spot, nor could you have two iContainers open at once to drag icons between them. Either capability would make this program more fun and useful.

As Panic states, CandyBar isn't intended to replace the Get Info method of changing individual icons, rather, that it should be used for changing entire sets. When you paste in an icon using Get Info, the icon is stored only for that specific file or folder. If you delete the icon in Get Info, the icon reverts to its default icon based upon what the system thinks it should be. CandyBar is used to change what those default icons are.

On one occasion when I started CandyBar, the program identified that new icon definitions for Mac OS 10.4.7 were available (though I was only on 10.4.6 at the time) and asked if I wanted to download them. When I accepted, they were downloaded and installed without any further interaction from me. Automatic updating is advertised as a feature beginning at version 2.5, and it appears to work quite well.

CandyBar is a nice "Li'l App", as Panic puts it, that changes the icon sets that OS X uses. It's exceedingly simple to use and never crashed or exhibited any bugginess during my use. All the icon changes it makes are easily undone, and none of them introduced any instability to my computer. It's reasonably priced, and I was able to download lots of free icon sets to try out. CandyBar is a one-trick-pony, however. It won't skin your Finder windows nor make your title bar act as a windowshade. It just changes icons. If that doesn't appeal to you, or it seems like too little for the price, then this application is not for you. For those who like to tinker with the look of your system, or those who want better control over icon sets without having to continually use Get Info to paste customized icons, CandyBar is the tool you've been looking for.


  • Simple, stable, and inexpensive
  • Changes icon sets for anything, and does it well
  • Great looking icon sets to choose from


  • Limited functionality
  • Cannot drag icons between iContainers or wells

Overall Rating:

4 out of 5 Mice